Iraqi Archbishop Warns 'Extinction Is Coming' for Christians in the Middle East
Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil gives grim prediction for Christianity
The future of Christianity in the Middle East was maybe nonexistent according to Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, who says recurring Islamic purges will lead to extinction.
The Islamic State invasion of Iraq in 2014 caused the displacement of more than 125,000 Christians from their homelands, but this event was far from unique, Archbishop Warda warned Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
“This was an exceptional situation, but it’s not an isolated one. It was part of the recurring cycle of violence in the Middle East over more than 1,400 years,” he said.
“With each successive cycle the number of Christians drops, till today we are at the point of extinction,” Warda said.
“Argue as you will, but extinction is coming, and then what will anyone say? That we were made extinct by a natural disaster, or gentle migration? That the ISIS attacks were unexpected, and that we were taken by surprise? That is what the media will say.”
“Or will the truth emerge after our disappearance: that we were persistently and steadily eliminated over the course of 1,400 years by a belief system which allowed for recurring cycles of violence against Christians, like the Ottoman genocide of 1916-1922,” he declared.
The Christian religion has been present in the Nineveh plains in Iraq for over 1000 years, but the arrival of Islam came much later.
Although there have been periods of Muslim tolerance of Christians int he area, violent persecution always returns, according to Warda.
Those moments of “have been a one-way experience: Islamic rulers decide, according to their own judgment and whim, whether Christians and other non-Muslims are to be tolerated and to what degree,” the archbishop said.
“It is not, and has never, ever been a question of equality.”
The Archbishop added, "fundamentally, in the eyes of Islam, Christians are not equal. We are not to be treated as equal; we are only to be tolerated or not tolerated, depending upon the intensity of the prevailing jihadi spirit."
“The root of all of this is the teachings of jihad, the justification of acts of violence,” he said.
From the 8th century to the 14th century, Muslims engaged with Christians and Jews in respectful dialogue, helping to create the Arab Golden Age and “a flowering of science, mathematics, and medicine.”
But the oppression of Sharia law ended all of that.
“The imposition of Sharia law saw the decline of great learning, and the end of the Golden Age of Arab culture,” he said.
“A style of scholastic dialogue had developed, and this could only occur because a succession of caliphs tolerated minorities. As toleration ended, so did the culture and wealth which flowed from it.”
“The truth is that there is a foundational crisis within Islam itself, and if this crisis is not acknowledged, addressed and fixed then there can be no future for civil society in the Middle East, or indeed anywhere Islam where brings itself to bear upon a host nation,” he said.
Christianity is not just under threat in the Middle East; it is in Europe too.
Last month, Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako said that Europe must rediscover its Christian heritage and not be fearful of openly practicing Christian values.
Raphael Sako, who is the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Iraq, noted there were no longer Christian religious classes in Belgian schools, which have been replaced by Islamic classes.
“Europe fell prey to relativism a long time ago,” said the cardinal.
“I understand that there are no longer Christian religious classes in Belgian schools, only classes about Islam.”